DBT Skill: IMPROVE the Moment

This month’s DBT skills highlight is IMPROVE the moment. In our daily lives we may be faced with problems or painful situations we can’t solve right away. When this happens it is useful to take action steps to improve the moment. Improving the moment can help us feel more regulated, reduce distress, and tolerate the problem without making the situation worse for ourselves. 

We can remember this skill with the acronym IMPROVE. It is one of our crisis survival skills in the Distress Tolerance Module. IMPROVE stands for: Imagery, Meaning, Relaxation, One thing at a time, Vacation, and Encouragement. You can use any part of IMPROVE to feel better in the moment. It is helpful to brainstorm your own ways to IMPROVE the moment and tailor it to your own unique needs.

Here are some practice ideas for using IMPROVE!

With IMAGERY: visualize a place that is peaceful

  • Picturing a safe space in your mind
  • Remember a happy place and imagine being in it (ex. beach, mountains, Disneyland)
  • Imagine everything going well!

With MEANING: find purpose or meaning when faced with challenges

  • Focus on things that are important to you, based off your values or principles
  • Think about positive aspects of a painful situation 
  • Listen or read about spiritual values

With PRAYER: use prayer or meditation in a distressing time

  • Read a book of prayers or mantras 
  • Connect with your wise mind to find inner wisdom
  • Think of a sacred object that gives you strength and faith
  • Ask for inner strength to bear the pain

With RELAXING: think of ways to relax and find an inner calm 

  • Take a long bubble bath or shower
  • Light a candle, use a heating pad to de-stress
  • Put on lotion, listen to calming music
  • Do stretches to help calm your body

ONE THING AT A TIME: focus on the present by engaging in one task

  • Focus on your breathing while doing a meditation
  • Clean your room and create a peaceful space
  • Write out tasks that you want to complete

With a brief VACATION: take a  break from the problem, this can be for a few minutes or longer

  • Get in bed put the sheets over your head
  • Get out of the house and grab a pleasurable treat
  • Book a trip 
  • Think of a vacation you enjoyed going on 

With self-ENCOURAGEMENT: repeat words that give you strength and motivate you to continue doing the best you can!

  • Cheerlead yourself with statements like “you got this, you are strong, this will pass, I will be ok, I’m doing my best”
  • Look at a list of inspiration quotes from your favorite author


Written By: Gina Hesp, LCSW

Photo By: Frédéric Barriol on Unsplash


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